Originally posted at LA Record on May 3, 2009:
Gangi is the eclectic musical duo of Matt Gangi and Lyle Nesse. Originally from Brooklyn, where Matt wrote and recorded the first album A, they moved to L.A. to get some sun and space and accidentially encounter Mandy Moore. They will be playing a Monday night residency at Spaceland for the month of May. This interview by Steven Martinez.
You guys have a pretty complicated set up for playing your music live which involves a lot of multitasking by both of you. Do you think this adds something to your performances or do you just have something against adding more band members?
Matt Gangi (vocals, guitar): We’re into the spontaneity that our looping stations bring and the time collage that samplers add, but I have also been thinking about experimenting by adding a bass player after the Spaceland residency.
Lyle Nesse (drums, loops): People often ask how we’re able to make so much sound as just a duo. I think the fact that there’s just two of us making the sounds of several people is one of the things that sets us apart from other bands.
Much has been made of the eclectic mix of sounds in your music and it seems to be a large part of your band identity, but could you ever write a simple song? Is that something that interests you?
MG: That is a large part of our band identity—if you say so—but most of the songs start out much more minimally, with a melody.
LN: Both minimal and complex arrangements interest me. We’ve been experimenting with all kinds of different arrangements for the new songs.
Many journalists have tried to define your particular musical stylings. What would you call it?
MG: ‘Musical styling’ sounds pretty good.
LN: Maybe it’s best to let other people try.
Lyle, you said in an interview that Gangi’s first album was all Matt’s work and you downplayed your own contribution to it. Will you have a stronger presence or influence on the next record?
LN: Matt recorded A alone in his apartment in Brooklyn, so it’s strange that some writers have credited me as the producer of that record! We were friends during the time that Matt was writing and recording those songs and he came over to my place often to play me sketches. Over the course of a few months in Brooklyn, I listened as the recordings progressed from sounding like underwater field recordings to the songs you hear on that record. The live interpretation of those songs has been a collaboration and it continues to evolve. On our new recordings, I am programming electronics and playing drums. Matt is writing the songs, singing and playing the melodic instruments. We are arranging and producing the music together and I have learned a lot in the studio from Matt, as he produced the first record alone.
The move from New York to LA is one that is usually met with strong prejudices from both sides—is it really that much of a culture shock relocating from coast to coast? Aren’t the two at least a little similar?
MG: I grew up in Glendale, so it was an easy move back home. Brooklyn definitely has an energy that I miss, but the taco trucks in L.A. more than make up for that.
LN: I can’t believe how people drive their cars here in L.A. It gets scary out there but the constant sunshine helps.
How has the move to L.A. influenced your sound, if at all?
MG: As there is more space in L.A. than in New York, Lyle is able to play live drums here when we rehearse. One of the many reasons I got into programming and electronics was because it was hard to find a comfortable place to play electric instruments or live drums in New York. L.A. has made the sound more rock and roll. We’ve been working for the past week at Pasadena recording studio, recording a demo of the first track on the second album—’Gun Show.’ The space is beautiful and we have been running sounds through warm analogue gear, which is far from the tiny Brooklyn apartment where I recorded A on a computer. Also Mandy Moore has been practicing in the next room.
LN: Just having a safe place where we can be creative during the late night hours has been really huge for us. Our friend Alan who owns that studio in Pasadena has helped make that possible. And yeah, Mandy Moore’s band is super hip.
If you ever get tired of living in L.A. where would you like to move next and why?
MG: I really love Atlanta. Every time we’ve toured through that town, all the sidewalks and streets were stained from the red clay in the city and the food is really good there.
LN: Matt has a thing for the South. Every time we tour through those southern parts he wants to stay in Georgia and the Carolinas for a few extra days just to hang out, take some banjo lessons and eat some soul food. I am from Maryland and sometimes miss my home state.
I read that you two met while in Prague when a mutual interest in absinthe brought you together. What were you doing in Prague and at what point did the subject of music come up?
MG: I was going to film school in Prague, making a short and digging on Jan Svankmajer’s films.
LN: I was bumming around with a backpack when I met Matt, but it wasn’t until we later reconnected in Brooklyn that we talked about music.
Appearing on Spin’s Best of CMJ 2008 list must have increased the visibility of your band. How has this affected you most directly?
MG: It is amazing how many people read Spin. We sold out Spaceland when we got back from CMJ, which awarded us our residency there.
LN: My old man was pretty happy to see that. At the beginning it was always more underground blogs and ‘zines that wrote us up, so he called me up when he saw that and said, ‘Even I know Spin magazine.’
You guys seem to enjoy a variety of choice in your musical tastes both on and off stage but if you were forced to choose one album to listen to for the rest of your life, what would it be?
MG: A collected album library of zipped up albums.
LN: John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. On vinyl.
You said that making art that makes people think is important to you. What do you want people to think when they hear your music?
MG: It’s up to you. What do you think?
GANGI WITH HEAD LIKE A KITE, DADDY KEV AND BLANK BLUE ON MON., MAY 4, AT SPACELAND, 1717 SILVERLAKE BLVD., SILVERLAKE. 8:30PM / FREE / 21+.CLUBSPACELAND.COM. GANGI’S A RELEASES ON VINYL THIS MONTH ON WHITE NOISE. VISIT GANGI ATMYSPACE.COM/GANGIMUSIC.